Session Wrap-up: Planning for Informal Learning Spaces

Planning for Informal Learning Spaces
Sandra Miller, Director of Instruction and Research Technology, William Paterson University of New Jersey

William Paterson University knew that much learning happened outside the classroom – so they wanted to provide intentional support for social strategies with human centered design and support for diverse, personally owned devices. Their goal was to make the entire campus (as much as possible) a learning space. Here are my notes from the session:

  • Over the years, spaces were created on campus (some of which included high-tech elements) to meet the goal of making the whole campus a learning space.
  • They created a cross-functional group to evaluate and improve informal learning spaces. The group initially did not include students, but they quickly realized that needed to change.
  • To start, they did an audit of the spaces on campus.
  • After an inventory, they did a careful labeling of spaces (when considering updates, knowing which spaces were which was important – by their nature many did not have room #s!)
  • As part of the project, they surveyed students on spaces.
    • This was a huge effort – historically responses to surveys were very low. By using iPads and iPods to collect data, they had a much higher response to the survey than average.
    • They included open-ended questions like “What are your favorite spaces on campus?” and “What do you like most about the spaces you use most?”
    •  The responses were surprising. Students liked quiet above all when choosing informal learning space. 50% compared to next highest…9% that they liked the space.
    • When asked what they wanted informal learning space, students said: quiet, wireless, and comfortable seating.
    • They also found that most of the time, students wanted to study alone – in sight of other students!
    • Using the data they collected, they were able to renovate several existing areas to be more student-focused.

All and all an interesting session with lots of photos; we got to guess students’ survey answers before we saw the data. I know I was surprised by what the students wanted in their learning spaces! Thanks to William Paterson University for presenting at MARC12.

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